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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Insights, facts, & numbers from an Amazon top reviewer

It is a common myth that indie authors just need to get a few/some/many reviews from friends and acquaintances, then buy an online promotion and their book will (probably) take off.

I am an Amazon reviewer since 2012 and a top reviewer since 2014, hence I can contribute some factual information.

In 2014, I reviewed 75 items on Amazon, including 45 books penned by self-publishing authors.

Combined, these 45 books received 5,448 reviews.

I know you are raising your eye-brows right now, but it's true.


4 books received only one single review (mine),

6 / 45 books received more than 100 reviews.

11 / 45 books (including the previously mentioned 4 books) received less than half a dozen reviews since 2014.

Ponder this fact for a second: Almost 25% of all indie author books I read and reviewed in 2014 received less than half a dozen reviews since then – in more than two years.

28 / 45 books received a dozen or more reviews but less than 100.

The 6 books with more than 100 reviews received 186, 217, 234, 375, 419, and 872 reviews, respectively.

The astonishing surprise:
The book that received the most reviews is a book that I awarded with only a 2-star review. Obviously, the secret to success is not all about a book being a best book.

I decided to check out this book after I read about it in an online article. Then, in 2014, the book had barely more than 100 reviews. I really thought posting my review would make a difference and encourage others to think twice about spending $2.99 for this particular book.

Still, it is listed an Amazon bestseller with 2,329 reviews.

How does the author do it?

Probably, he has a huge email list. Occasionally, he runs promotions (I personally have seen one 99 cents promo and three promos at full price). Most importantly, he succeeds in getting influential journalists and top bloggers to talk about his book. Not only did I learn about the book from an article, he has been "in the news"  getting featured in seven articles  since January 2017, in only six weeks. Even now, he does not stop promoting his book in media outlets. Altogether, he and his book have been featured in 86 articles.

What is to be learned from this information?

Getting reviews from friends, acquaintances, and colleagues does NOT do the trick.

Remember, four of the books I reviewed did not get reviewed by anybody else, in more than 2 years...

even though ... all four authors networked in FB groups and tweeted their heart out.

According to Pew Research, in 2016:

68% of all online U.S. adults used Facebook, (What about the other 32%?)
32% of all online U.S. adults used Instagram,
29% of all online U.S. adults used Linkedin,
26% of all online U.S. adults used Pinterest,
21% of all online U.S. adults used Twitter.

Only 76% of the U.S. adults who used Facebook logged in daily
(that's only 51% of all online U.S. adults)

only 51% of the U.S. adults who used Instagram logged in daily,
only 42% of the U.S. adults who used Linkedin logged in daily,
only 25% of the U.S. adults who used Pinterest logged in daily,
only 18% of the U.S. adults who used Twitter logged in daily.

Therefore, to really get your book out you and your book need to have a presence in many venues.


Routinely, financial advisers preach, "Diversify your portfolio!"

The same advice applies to book marketing,

Here are 10 ways to get your book seen, bought, and reviewed:

  1. Join a real "live" book club, e.g. a Meet-up group or book club at your local library,
  2. Join online book groups (FB, Goodreads, etc.), 
  3. Arrange for book signings at independent book stores,
  4. Try to get gigs at local library events (about 20% of all US libraries host local author events once or twice per year),
  5. Offer to guest blog,
  6. Pitch your local TV-station,
  7. Pitch magazines (print and online), 
  8. Pitch bloggers who don't blog about books. Remember – you want to get found and noticed by new and different audiences, 
  9. Pitch radio hosts and podcasters,
  10. Throw a private book party (at a bar or a coffee house) or team up with other local authors to throw a party, together.
Naturally, pursuing a minimum of 5 or 6 of these options requires more work than networking on Facebook (in your pajamas), but it helps to reach many tens of thousands of people who otherwise would have never heard about you and your book, as shown by Pew Research's data.

Many indie authors spend so much time on Facebook that they could pitch two or three publications every day, in half that of the time they spend networking on Facebook.

BEST OF ALL, media coverage doesn't go away. In contrast to online promotions media coverage stays "live" and will promote you and your book – forever!

When during the research for this article I looked up this bestselling author's name I found the 7 articles that had been written about him and his book on Google, in less than 2 seconds. Even potential readers who have never heard of the author and search for different search terms on Google will find the book, by accident, just like I did, too.

Summing it up: Every author needs starter reviews, but the majority of reviews will come by themselves once you expose your book to many audiences.

~~ *** ~~~

Gisela Hausmann is the multi-award winning author of "BOOK MARKETING: The Funnel Factor: Including 100 Media Pitches" and "NAKED TRUTHS About Getting Book Reviews."

Her work has been featured in the SUCCESS magazine, in Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg (podcast), on NBCNews, and in other fine publications.

Gisela is a mass media expert who graduated from the University of Vienna, which, founded in 1365, is the 22nd oldest university in the world. She also worked in the industry for six years.

Follow her on Twitter:


© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann 


  1. Thank you, Gisela. A useful reminder to diversify your promotion channels, especially as social media is becoming saturated.

    1. THX @David and don't forget Donald Trump's tweets. On certain days 5 trending topics on Twitter are Trump-related, hence they suppress other tweets.
      THX for getting in contact.

  2. Is this information included in your book?

    1. Hello @Peter, thx for asking.
      Here is what's featured in my book (165 pages)

  3. Gisela, great blog! A lot of useful information!

  4. Than you @Barbara and @Paul, inviting you to stay tuned.

  5. This was great and useful information. Thank you for posting!

  6. Thanks all. Hope you'll connect with me on any of my many platforms. Pls pick and chooose here

  7. I just now saw this. Thank you so very much. I wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to do any of that. I got an unusual title for my book and I promote on Facebook, but in one ear, I have three reviews and have sold two books.

    1. Hello @Larry. May I suggest that you follow my blog's RSS feed? Or, you could subscribe to my newsletter at
      Keep on writing! :))

  8. Hi Gisela. I am a psychiatrist-novelist with hybrid She Writes Press. My novel The End of Miracles has received wonderful reviews and reader comments, but it is of course hard to get discoverability. I write regularly as an Expert for PsychologyToday, Sometimes I mention my book in these articles, sometimes not. Sometimes 15,000 people click on an article and 10,000 like it. But they come for information or interest, and don't have buying a book in mind. So how does one pitch oneself to the media for articles that actually will sell books? Thanks. Monica

    1. Hello @Monica, You are pitching the wrong media outlet. You need to pitch women's magazines; that's where your readers are.
      2 suggestions:
      I coach "How to Pitch the Media ( and I also published a book about this topic: "BOOK MARKETING The Funnel Factor" (paperback edition including workbook, no ebook).

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Thank you, Gisella. A very informative and useful article. I do a couple of your suggestions, but must obviously do more.
    However, I don't find using Goodreads very easy. Yes, I can 'talk' to people in the forums, but they don't want to hear ads for your book. To get to a trusted position where I feel I can mention them takes a lot of time. Too much, in my opinion.

  11. Thank you, Gisella...your generous advice is most appreciated. Although my Memoir about growing up in Ireland - "The Big Yank," was only released five months ago, I am already using a number of your recommendations. My target market is Irish/Americans, so I figured that thriving Irish pubs around the U.S. would be a great place to hold signings and they love my book there - both the owners and the customers. On 1st of April I have my first Indie Book store signing in Miami. The best part - these venues all said "yes," just by me going there and asking!

  12. Gisela, thank-you for your research and your personal story as well. An author has to have a public presence with people in their community. In addition to coffee shops, many bars have book clubs during the week. Don't forget Good Reads. Book clubs look there for new authors for their group. If you have a website, offer to attend a book club virtually through Facetime or whatever app your phone supports. Juliet S. Kono wrote a fantastic book called Anshu about the Japanese war experience from an Hawaiian expat perspective. It is a great book. She is a great speaker and a great teacher. It is also fun to get validated

  13. @J.P. Sexton and @Margie Peterson
    Thx for sharing. Pls consider following this blog's RSS feed or at

  14. Great article, Gisela. Thank you.
    I’ve written two books and both have done okay (for an indie?). It is amazing how many friends and acquaintances do NOT write reviews, even if they loved the book. I would say 95% of my reviews on my first book (121) came from people I do not know. Of those, maybe five or six were from ‘free copies’ for an honest review.
    In contrast, I have 461 reviews (almost all 4 or 5 stars) on Audible. I’m not sure why people are more apt to leaving reviews for audio books other than the fact that they have the choice of only leaving stars or writing a review to go with the star listing.
    One area I fall short on is “publications’. I don’t know where to start with those. How to put one together, who I should contact. Facebook shows little success, even with paid advertisements. My sales do not jump when I pay for an add, so I’m probably done with that except for when I release a new book, and then only advertising to my own followers.
    Any advice on Publications through other people’s blogs, magazines, etc?

    J.D. Demers
    Author of The Hunt Chronicles

    1. Hello @Jacob,
      You are not alone with your questions about "how to pitch media." That's why I published "BOOK MARKETING : The Funnel Factor."

      Jim Cox, editor-in-chief of the reputable Midwest Book Review, called it "Impressively informed and informative, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation..."

      I am an industry insider, graduated w/masters in Film & Mass media" and I also worked in the industry for six years.

      Does it work? Heck yes, please see my newsroom

      Half of the people who bought the book have already landed media coverage, the best of them is going to be featured in a national print magazine with 1.3 mio readers.

      Hope this helps

  15. Thanks Gisela, great suggestions in your blog and I really appreciate your replies and suggestions to the comments. Very helpful.

  16. Thanks, Gisela, for the updated info on marketing and promoting. I read your book, Naked Truths About Getting Reviews, in preparing for the marketing/ad campaign for my debut novel, Things Unsaid. But by the time my novel came out last year, a lot of the advice you gave about contacting reviewers of similar novels by email is now not only discouraged by Amazon and Goodreads but will get you thrown out of their system. This new set of recommendations is greatly appreciated!

    1. @Diana, The advice is still as good as it always was. The problem is that unqualified people spread incorrect advice. Referring you to my blog
      I myself had to stand up to and blow the whistle on some of these people, though not with Amazon; I had to complain to Mailchimp. Authors were subscribing me to their mailing lists?!? (I have no idea who spread that idea but more than one person did it.)
      That's more than one violation of Internet laws. I had never even heard of these authors, let alone given them permission to add my name to their lists.
      So, I would not be surprised if similar things happened with Amazon top reviewers and Goodreads reviewers.
      It's a serious problem.

  17. Hi Gisela. Very insightful post as always. How do you rate "blog tours" as a tool for getting reviews?

    1. A+ @Aditje. Different books have different markets. Getting featured on the right blog can be the best choice.

  18. Thanks for this info. I really needed it.

    1. THX @Maureen, pls consider subscribing. Since I am an email evangelist I don't pester anybody but I do send recap-emails every three months informing about blog my followers may have missed.

  19. This is a very good article, and some great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Hi Gisela - I have two Indie books Squinting Over Water - Stories and The Shadow of a Dog I Can't Forget - Poetry & Prose, both available on Amazon. I send the books 'cold' to reviewers and they always love them. My reviews hover only around 20. I'm on Amazon all the time, sometimes I do a review for a book in my genre and then list my books at the end of the review. I feel like some authors must pay people to review their books because the books just aren't that great and they have hundreds of reviews, not all positive as you say, in fact some not positive at all!!! I live in Silicon Valley and I'm actually thinking about trying to
    feature my books and myself at one of their Maker fires. I'm making up stories every day! Your list reminds me I have to get back to book promoting. I got a great review for the poetry book in January and just sent my short story collection to another reviewer so I'm still pushing that rock up the hill!!! Thanks for reminding me of all the work that still needs to be done while I'm trying to pump out a third book!

    1. THX for writing such a detailed comment @Word_Actress.
      No, authors aren't paying reviewers anymore (aside from Kirkus et al.), it's way to risky. Amazon has a way of finding these too. If you haven't read my book "NAKED TRUTHS About Getting Book Reviews" you might want to check it out (It's selling from Brazil to Japan). It'll give you excellent strategies to contact/pursue/interest reviewers online and "offline"(live). Also, on p. 16 I am explaining why you should not join a reviewer club.
      There are much better ways to get reviews.
      Happy Easter!

  21. Hi Gisela, Do you review indie authors work? I have a book series that is interesting but was wondering if you would review the 1st book for me. Angelina's Secret/Historical Romance, with action and suspense thrown in for good measure. Angelina’s Secret